by David A. Hardy and Chris Morgan
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
David Hardy's career as an artist spans nearly half a century, dating from scraperboard illustrations he made in the early fifties. His life's work is chronicled in words and pictures in Hardyware: The Art of David A. Hardy. This book provides an overview of Hardy's entire career from early black and white illustrations to some of his most recent work in acrylics and digital media. These pieces of art are accompanied by biographical and technical descriptions by Chris Morgan.
While Hardy is perhaps best known for his detailed depictions of space, Hardyware contains a wide variety of topics ranging from the fantastic to the humorous to the strictly commercial. Paintings from the early sixties are from boxes of Cadbury chocolate and other products. Even in these, however, there is an astronomical theme. Hardy continued to build on this theme, and perfect his techniques over the years, something which is readily apparent throughout the book, although the artwork is not reprinted in precisely chronological order.
Hardy shows strength in both creating fantastic landscapes as well as amazing spacescapes. He depicts places which may not exist, but draw the viewer in and make him wish he could visit the places Hardy has depicted. Although these images stand on their own, they are strengthed, and linked more closely to Hardy's own experiences by Morgan's text.
Morgan has written a lengthy history of Hardy's place in the field, combined with elements of biography. He incorporates extended reminiscences of paintings both included and not selected for this collection. These serve to provide more insight into the creative process, especially when Hardy and Morgan are discussing Hardy's more commercial work, such as the album covers he worked on (p.66) or a few of the murals he created in the 1970s.
At the same time, the amount of text creates one of the weaknesses of Hardyware. In order to include more illustrations along with the text, the reproductions of the artwork are shrunk, making detail work practically invisible. One of the most egregious of these is the reproduction of "Arctic Moon" (p.112) which shows the piece of art from original inspiration (a rusted Birmingham railway shelter) to final composition. Unfortunately, the composition is so small it only hints at the details which are presumably present. Ironically, this is followed almost immediately by "Long-Tailed Comet," a two-page spread showing the Ulysses probe in the tail of Hyakutake.
Hardyware provides a fantastic overview and history of Hardy's work dating back five decades. While some of the images could stand to be larger, that shortfall is more than made up for my the inclusion of so many details of Hardy's career and the individual paintings. Even pictures which are only described in the captions inform the reader about what Hardy was trying to (and so often succeeded in) accomplish.